Taking Care of Your Ill Spouse When They Leave Home
No matter how hard you try and no matter how much you want to, you can’t keep your ill spouse at home anymore. At this emotionally difficult time, the last thing you need is the stress of not knowing where to find the money to pay for the steep costs of skilled nursing home care in a facility.
Advance planning is a must. Take advantage of an experienced elder law attorney for a modest initial consultation charge. Ideally, you want to address serious health problems at least five years before the need for long-term care services. You will have more control over financial resources and the quality of health care services. However, you can still get help if a spouse is currently or recently transferred to a facility.
Successfully navigating the complexities of the Medicaid program means understanding the requirements before submitting an application. Governmental benefits are available to meet the staggering expense of institutional care, but the qualification process is complicated, and mistakes can be costly. It takes time to evaluate your financial resources and time asset transfers to meet asset and income limits without triggering penalties connected with the five-year lookback period.
The Difference Between Resources and Income
Medicaid assistance is available only to those with a limited income and assets and people with disabilities. A person can only own around $2,000.00 in assets or resources.
- Resources include:
- Cash in the bank
- Insurance policies
Income includes regular paychecks, Social Security, or payments received for child support. Medicaid requires income to be at or below 138% of Federal Poverty Guidelines, currently $20,120 per year for an individual or $41,400 for a family of four. However, each state has its own guidelines for income as well. You may not feel you qualify, but legal strategies over time can reduce your countable assets and income by carefully spending them down or correctly transferring them to individuals or a trust.
Some resources are not counted or are exempt. This means the Medicaid rules exclude them from adding up to the $2,000.00 resource limit, including:
- A married couple’s residence
- One motor vehicle
- Household goods and furnishings
- Medical equipment
- Small insurance policies for funeral and burial
An ill spouse can still qualify for Medicaid assistance even if the couple owns those resources. There’s no need to give them away or sell them to qualify.
The distinction between exempt and non-exempt assets can be tricky, though, and should first be assessed by a qualified elder-law attorney before any action is taken.
Protecting a Community Spouse
Medicaid permits a spouse, the community spouse, who remains at home to keep a portion of the couple’s resources. Planning can ensure a well spouse keeps as much as possible.
Medicaid requires resources over the community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) limit to be spent down or carefully transferred. And the well spouse can keep a certain amount of income to live on, called a monthly maintenance needs allowance (MMNA).
Since each state has different laws affecting its Medicaid programs, figuring out asset and income allowances is not a simple matter. It should be done only on the advice of a qualified elder law attorney who offers Medicaid planning.
Planning for the best outcome for a spouse with declining health can take some time. The sooner you plan, the more strategies are available to protect your resources. Our law firm is dedicated to informing you of issues affecting seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care. For legal advice, please contact our office today at (954) 315-1169 to schedule a consultation.